Man with advanced MND loses challenge for an assisted deathBMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4631 (Published 06 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4631
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The verdict on Noel Conway was much as expected. Of greater interest is the basis for this, despite the lack of hard evidence, that support for Noel Conway would pose a significant threat to the "vulnerable" in Society and to those who somehow see life as a "burden" to themselves or others. It is fairly self-evident that life can be just that on occasion. As with “depression”, “vulnerable “ and “burden” are possible factors that may need addressing, but background social anxieties about these are scarcely reasons for overruling the rights of the individual.
The debate should have moved on from quoting these as a mantra. Perhaps we should ignore requests to forego CPR, and other potentially life-prolonging treatments, on similar grounds or at least until there has been a full psychosocial assessment lest burdensome features or those of “vulnerability” are influencing the decision – and what person in the position where these decisions are most relevant is not “vulnerable” to some degree? The court comment that “people should not seek to intervene to hasten the death of a human is not open to serious doubt” has very real implications for those patients wishing to refuse such interventions and scarcely mitigated by the dismissal of Noel Conway with the comment that he can always refuse ventilation when he is gasping or choking. Arguments on the nuances of difference in these circumstances between assisted dying and not ventilating verge on casuistry – with one of the alternatives being more charitable than the other.
Competing interests: Health Professionals for Assisted dying